Lake Cuyamaca

The temperature is really heating up in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park, so we decided to get away for the day and meet our RV travel partners, Fred, and Becky up at Lake Cuyamaca. It is less than an hour drive to the lake from our home, and the 110-acre reservoir provides natural air conditioning to the surrounding shoreline and kept the temperature at a comfortable 85 degrees. We sat around the table at the only restaurant that overlooks the water, and this eatery is famous for its chicken pot pies and fresh, fruit pies. You can be seated outdoors on a wooden balcony and hummingbird feeders hang from the eaves and Brewer’s Blackbirds wait patiently for you to finish eating before descending, somewhat mannerly, onto the leftover French fries when you get up to leave.

I pigged out on both the chicken pot pie and the Mountain Berry pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and topped with whip cream that was then generously sprinkled with cinnamon on it for dessert. Fred and Becky had the veggie burgers with coleslaw and fries, and that too was fresh and delicious. All of the meals were served in a timely manner and were very delicious. Our waitress was good-natured and accommodating, and even filled up the hummingbird feeders so that I could take photos with my camera. I highly recommend going there because it is also a fabulous place in which to camp overnight in an RV. I have written about Lake Cuyamaca in past posts, so I won’t get into a lot of detail, but just wanted to once again reiterate what a nice place it is to visit and camp at.

The lake provides food and shelter for a variety of wildlife. Canadian Geese and Brewer’s Blackbirds, Acorn Woodpeckers, Red-winged blackbirds, and Great Blue and White herons can be seen fishing along the shore. There is also an elusive pair of Bald Eagles that nest there every year in the fall way up high in the branches of magnificent evergreens on the island. If you are so inclined, easy hiking and biking trails are also available and you can’t go wrong if you are looking for a great way to spend time outdoors and escape the summer heat. One can also rent a boat and go fishing or just enjoy bobbing on the surface of the water and checking out the wildlife.

On the way back home, just as we were heading down the hill at San Filipe Wash in Anza- Borrego, a handsome bighorn sheep ram, dashed across the street in front of the car and up and over the rocks. Michael slammed on the brakes so that I could take one photo of him before he disappeared. I was still in the passenger seat with my seat belt on and used Michael’s shoulder for a tripod. I was very lucky he stopped for just a brief moment in time to look around. What a magnificent beast. He was probably searching for water and looked very healthy.

We came back home to Callie sound asleep on her chair and it appeared that she didn’t miss us one bit. We are heading back to the beach tomorrow and had a very relaxing time in the desert.

Photographs of Rancho Cuyamaca Wildlife

I promised as soon as I returned home and had internet service again, that I would upload photographs I took with my Nikon D70s camera. Well, we returned home today and the first thing I accomplished was to download and edit my telephoto photos. I have a long way to go as far as quality of shots, but it is a start. The birds and deer are at least recognizable but the lighting is poor and the subject matter somewhat blurry. It wasn’t easy having Michael haul the camera equipment in a backpack on his back when we biked, and wildlife doesn’t stay still and pose for you, but it is a start and I shall improve.

We saw Blue Herons, Bald Eagles, Red-Winged Blackbirds, White-Tailed Deer, Canadian Geese Kildare, and wild turkeys. It was fun and exciting to off-road bike on all the trails, and my great big gigantic bruise from falling off of my bike and landing on a rock is a little less sore today, but growing in size. It was worth it though and I would do it all over again if I had the chance.

It is 110 in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and we will be packing up and heading toward Mammoth in about a week. Looking forward to a higher elevation, cooler temperatures, and green pine trees all around.

A Difficult Road Traveled

Grief is a difficult emotion to pocket. It spills out and pours over you when you least expect it. A memory flashes across your mind and floods you with feelings. Every morning at sunrise, I would text Dolly a rise and shine message and she in return would comment on Mount Illuminous or Callie. She always appreciated me reaching out and checking in on her. In hindsight, I am blindsided at how much suffering she felt and endured and kept it all to herself. Dolly committed suicide one afternoon when I was suppose to take her out for lunch. I won’t go into detail about it but I have come to accept her decision and appreciative that she isn’t suffering anymore. Having been laid off at the age of 65 and with little social security and the high cost of healthcare in the United States, she felt hopeless.

We made it up to Rancho Lake Cuyamaca yesterday before noon and escaped the grueling heat and arrived to temperatures in the high 70’s. What a difference compared to 109! I drive the RV with Callie at my side and Michael drove the SUV. It is only an hour and a half away so having another mobile vehicle will make the trip even better. Our friend, Fred may try and join us.

Callie and I walked to the lake shore this morning and she is so happy to be back. I can still hear Canadian Geese chatting amongst themselves and there are jet black Starlings and Blue-Jays and one nervous Golden Flicker. Red-winged Blackbirds are busy catching insects for their young and aren’t as busy singing as they were in the spring. The Bald Eagle pair have nested and can be seen hunting for fish on the opposite shore of where we are camped. Fisherman are catch and releasing the female Big Mouth Bass that are getting ready to lay eggs and they are flirting with the males to help fertilize them. These girls reach 16 plus pounds and are caught in shallow water. Once a photograph is taken, they are put back into the water with tails thrashing and gills gasping. It is unlawful to keep them at this time, so it is rather interesting to observe the patience and determination of the fisherman. They use rubber trout for bait that in and of themselves are 10 inches long.

After Callie’s photo opt, she and I walked slowly back to the RV with her taking alternate turns sniffing the flowers and grasses and rolling in the dirt. It is such a big change from the desert. Michael and I will go on a bike ride mid-morning and that should perk me up a little. I still feel flattened by Dolly’s death, but time should heal the pain.

Letting Go of Sorrow

It is time for me to let go of my sorrow and accept that Dolly and I will never text each other, talk on the phone, laugh, cry or hug again. What I can do though, is remember the good times we were able to spend together and to feel gratitude for what a fabulous friendship we did share. Dolly and I were soulmates, no doubt about it, and we always talked about growing old together. I guess that won’t happen now but I will think of you often and focus on the good times.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park will have a high today of 109 degrees. That is just way too hot for outdoor activity and we are packing up the RV and heading back up to Lake Cuyamaca. I am so excited about off-road biking again in cooler temperatures. It will only be a high of 77 degrees and that sounds marvelous to me.

Callie is more than ready to hit the road again too and loves hanging out in the RV. The fresh, cool air and outdoor wilderness will do my heart and soul a lot of good. I am looking forward to getting away.

A Crown Jewel

Michael and I biked close to 20 miles today! That means we probably biked 19, but 20 sounds more impressive and who’s counting! It is starting to heat up in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park, but if you get out the door around 7 am and return by 10:30, you will miss most of the intense heat.

We biked up to Di Giorgio and over to Coyote Canyon, took Henderson Canyon to the starting point of the state park, over to Seley Ranch- the ruby red grapefruit farm, back to Di Giorgio and south to the Locust and Scorpion sculptures, returning to the Dragon Sculpture and around the De Anza Country Club Golf Course.

During our bike ride we saw at least 3 different coyotes hunting, numerous cottontails, kestrels, roadrunners, a jackrabbit, common grackles, quail, and doves. It is the tail end of spring and everything is trying to eat or not be eaten before summer settles in with a vengeance. When I watch the cottontails enjoying a moments respite in the bright sunshine, all I can think of is being here and now; they are a good meal source for many of the predators. Watching a bobcat chase one down, only to abort the hunt because we came along on our bikes, this particular bunny was saved to appreciate one more day. As we rounded the bend on the last leg of our journey, I spotted these bright yellow cactus blooms, a crown jewel to me, and the desert willow, which smells just like fresh, clean soap and were covered with wild desert honey bees.

It was beautiful out and now I can start preparing for Lake Cuyamaca as we will try and leave first thing in the morning. There is a thunderstorm predicted for tomorrow and I love storms. It will be windy here, so I am really appreciative that we are heading up to the mountains. Reading about the mountain bikers that were attacked by a male cougar in Eastern Seattle was a little unsettling. I have seen evidence of mountain lions when we bike in Cuyamaca and know that if I were to come into contact with one of these majestic predators, I would not run. The friend that was killed, took off running when his friend was attacked. The man that was attacked watched as his friend was chased down by the 110-pound cat and was able to bike away himself to call 911.

They tracked the cat down and found him standing over the dead man’s body. The cougar was chased up a tree and then shot. You must make eye contact and do what it takes to fight back. Use your bike as a weapon and start swinging it around. Throw your helmet at it. Scream, shout, anything but run. They have more of a right to be there than we do and if they succeed in attacking someone, they are hunted down themselves and destroyed.

Looking forward to my next adventure, and Callie is more than ready to go. She gets bored hanging around the house and loves to travel. As soon as the motor starts up in the RV, she jumps up on the dash and is ready for action.

Ride ’em Cowgirl

I have been forced to hide Callie’s butt ugly worm toy because she became so addicted to it that she wouldn’t even go outside to climb her beloved olive trees. That was quite a startling revelation for me and I pondered over the thin line between seeking pleasure and it becoming an addiction. I have Bipolar Disorder, so I have to always be aware of being too attached to something, anything, everything. Balance and moderation with a good dose of routine, exercise and healthy eating habits is the key for me.

When Callie sat over her worm toy and only wanted me to play THAT game with her, I had to put it away and find other fun things for her to enjoy! Ride ’em cowgirl is her new fun and favorite thing, but it doesn’t consume her every waking hour like the worm did. She jumps up on my old leather reclining chair and sweetly looks up at me and invites me to get behind it and literally rock it back and forth aggressively so that she can ride her bucking bronco. She holds on for dear life as I tumble her back and forth. What a funny one she is. I have to make sure that there is balance in her life though. Climbing trees, going on walks, riding in her bike basket and being the queen of the RV dash is the variety that keeps her stimulated and engaged, but healthy and happy too!

We leave for Lake Cuyamaca on Monday and the fun will begin again for her and for us. We all go a little crazy out here in the middle of nowhere after a while, even if it is beautiful Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Off-road biking and hiking the beautiful trails of this gorgeous country park will be restorative and exciting. Callie hates being bored and hanging out in this house for too long drives her crazy. I can relate!

A Treasure to Behold

I haven’t studied the science behind cactus blooms, so suffice it to say, my mind is blown away in a similar fashion as to when I ponder metamorphosis. I saw a beautiful short animation film on metamorphosis once and it was broken down into simple parts and stages, but nevertheless, when a caterpillar emerges into a butterfly, I choose to marvel at Mother Nature with a sense of wonderment. Just the thought of instinct for one thing; the ability to be born with all the knowledge that you need in order to survive from the moment you are brought into being. Wow! But back to the cactus flowers, how can they produce such outrageously, large and numerous blossoms, with no leaves, and all those wicked quills poking out to protect the vulnerable, water saturated stalks?

So I biked for a couple of hours yesterday morning in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park and there is very little out there that appears to be alive, or at least at a glance, not suffering horribly through this season of so little rainfall. The acacias still have a few golden flowers on them, the century plants, all in tandem it seems, have shot up their asparagus type stalks and another species, the yucca, that supports a plume of gorgeous, white flowers, are far and few between. Some palm trees have flowering bouquets, heavily laden with clusters of tiny white blooms, are humming and vibrating with desert bees. The sage, though struggling and brittle, has managed to support a few silvery blossoms.

This particular cactus, that was so exquisite I jumped off of my bike and took numerous photographs of; this fortunate plant was growing in a tended yard and had the benefit of being watered. It was covered with beautiful, soft pink and white flowers, their edges touched with salmon and burgundy. The wild desert honey bees had discovered this treasure to behold and were rolling ecstatically in the center of the blooms as they collected pollen in an orgy of delight!

As I bike, I look around attentively and it takes my mind off of the effort of pedaling in the heat. I love biking and really appreciate being in the desert where very few people are around and I don’t have to worry about cars on the road. I didn’t pass one vehicle yesterday. The temperature has stayed under 100 degrees, so it is still very tolerable here. We are planning on going back up to Lake Cuyamaca on Monday to continue exploring off-road biking. The trails are incredible there. It’s too crowded over the weekend though. Callie is bored with olive tree climbing and ready for another adventure! She won’t have to wait too much longer.

There’s Gold in them Hills

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park has some of the best off-road biking (at least in my limited experience) that I have come across. I thought Morro Bay and Mammoth were incredible, but today’s biking takes the prize. It is really windy again and only in the 50’s because snow is expected on Tuesday, but that didn’t stop us from having a lot of fun. I am so tired of wind, at least here though, it is fresh and cool and it energizes you rather than makes you go insane like it does me in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park.

Michael and I took the Soapstone Grade Fire Road all the way up and over to the Anza-Borrego State Park boundary line and marveled at what a difference a higher altitude can make. Instead of sand and ocotillo, there were golden meadows filled with tidy tips, a petite, yellow flower that blankets the entire meadow in early springtime. Massive oaks lined the trails and evidence of past fires could be seen in the charred trunks of some of the older trees. Stonewall Mountain has some very powerful storms and it isn’t uncommon for trees and sometimes people to be struck by lightning.

Having biked for over 3 hours, we covered some pretty challenging terrain. I have learned the hard way to keep your weight way back and to look forward about 10 feet. It does you no good to stare down at the rocks directly below you while you worry about whether you are going to crash or not. My skills have improved already and I only tipped over once today when I hit a stationary rock. When we reached the top of the trail, we could see the storm building up as the clouds raced in from the southwest of Stonewall Mountain. The powerful gusts of wind would make the tiny tip flowers dance and sway, turning the meadow into a field of shimmering gold.

Since we discovered so many new trails, we can now hunker down in the RV and watch the storm build up. The RV is rocking and rolling and the clouds are sweeping past at an alarming speed. Most everyone has left and we have the campsite to ourselves again. I prefer it that way. Callie can’t walk around on her leash if there are dogs running loose. They take one look at her and then take another look and you can just see the thoughts churning around in their heads. “What the hell is a cat doing on a leash?” I have to be on constant alert just in case a dog wants to charge us. It hasn’t happened yet, but I am ready for it if it does.

The three of us may head to Agua Caliente tomorrow morning if it is too cold outside for us to play. Callie doesn’t like it when it is windy, and cold and windy it is. That is the wonder and joy of traveling in a small enough RV. We are so mobile, that we can pick up and leave at a moments notice. Callie in the meantime is buried under the covers high up in the loft. How fun is that?!

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

The wind that haunts us in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park has followed us up the mountains and into Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. I have never experienced so much wind before I moved to the desert. It blows often and it blows hard, sending sand and debris everywhere. At least up in the mountains, it is cool and fresh and the ground has green stuff growing on it that prevents the soil from being swept away. A rainstorm is heading our way, and because Southern California still needs rain before the summer settles in, I shan’t complain.

We got up first thing Saturday morning and had a lovely breakfast and then hopped on our bikes and headed toward Stonewall Mountain Trailhead and the ranger station. As we biked along the roadside we stopped to watch 4 coyotes working in tandem in the meadow to flush out ground squirrels and mice. You could listen to their progress as the squirrels chirped out warning calls across the land. The coyotes would jump up in the air and pounce multiple times as they efficiently trotted along, but we didn’t see them catch one rodent.

When we made it to the trailhead we discovered that bikes and horses are not allowed and I stopped and talked with two equestrian volunteers that ride the numerous trails and keep an eye out for hikers and to make sure that the trails are in good condition. They showed us the Cold Stream Trail that we could bike on and I asked them if they wanted to exchange mounts? They said they did not!

Biking in the meadow along the back side of the lake, we watched several Red-Winged Blackbirds sing their hearts out and flash the beautiful red shoulder pads that make them so sexy to the females. I love the song they sing and the whole atmosphere of the tall dried grasses being rustled in the wind and the blue water rippled and patterened by the waves that then cast reflective flashes of light into your eyes.

We did a two-hour bike ride and Michael went down twice. I managed to do better this last time because I lowered my saddle and wasn’t as preoccupied with falling. Yesterday’s bike ride, my seat was too high and whenever I stepped off, I almost tipped over before my foot could touch the ground. It is one thing to bike on flat pavement and another to pedal furiously on steep, rutted trails.

Callie had zero separation anxiety when we left her and she didn’t even lift her head when I said goodbye. When we returned, I opened up the window for her to look out and gaze over the lake. It is too windy for her to take a walk and she knows it. She hates it when the wind rushes into her ears. If a breeze so much as hits her in the face, she flattens down and makes a dash for cover. She is far better off today in the safety of the RV where it is warm and cozy.

Cranking Up the Heat

I don’t know what it is about cats, their small body mass probably contributes to it, but Callie absolutely cannot handle the cold. She huddles under blankets when it drops below 80 and prefers basking in the sun behind curtains that are drawn to keep the sunshine from blasting inside when it is 99 degrees in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. I would be baked alive if I did that, but Callie finds it ever so delightful.

This morning dawned brisk and windy with a temperature of 40 and I was glad I left Callie’s personal heater churning away all night. We sleep up in the loft above the cab and need to have a window cracked open so that it isn’t so hot for us, but Callie finds it barely tolerable. She delicately declines the offer of sleeping down below though, much preferring the warmth and company of our bodies during the night, but as soon as I get up, she pounces on the suggestion of lounging next to the heater.

I tried walking her this morning, but the winds have strengthened because of an upcoming rainstorm and she doesn’t like the wind either. So, huddling by the heater today and watching all the new campers from inside the RV will have to do. Surprisingly, Lonepine Campground has filled up and there are people in tents lined up along the shoreline. It can’t be super fun for them in the wind! It will be a beautiful day nevertheless and we will probably go on another bike ride. Stronger winds and a further drop in the temperature is predicted for tomorrow. On Tuesday, we are heading to Agua Caliente to ride out the storm.